PALM SPRINGS, Calif. — Fort Bend Travis (Richmond, Texas)
boys basketball coach Craig Brownson was asked his last question about his team's gritty 67-64 MaxPreps Holiday Classic
semifinal win over Loyola Friday nigh at Palm Desert High Schoolt, when an odd request followed.
"Can I talk with Chris," the reporter asked.
What? Not Aaron Harrison
or Andrew Harrison
, Travis' super senior set of twins? Nothing from the high-flying, highly skilled and vivacious Kentucky-bound brothers who headline this 120-team, 11-division tournament?
Brownson seemed genuinely pleased. His team plays in the tournament final 7:30 p.m. Saturday against Westchester.
"Chris, the man would like to speak with you," Brownson said to 5-foot-8 junior guard Chris Idi
, who scored six key points down the stretch.
Idi's eyes seemed to get big and a little confused before he introduced himself.
"First interview," he was asked?
"Yes, first one," he said.
That all makes sense on this team which is dominated in every way by two of the nation's top five 2013 recruits. The duo average better than a combined 40 points per game on a team that averages 71. They've also combined to take just about half (533) of the team's 1,067 attempts.
But no one on this unselfish squad seems to mind giving up the spotlight to their fearless leaders, least of all Idi, who seems to lack a big Id and according to Aaron Harrison, is a ghost around campus.
"Besides basketball, nobody ever sees him," said Aaron Harrison, who scored a game-high 32 points Friday to make up the scoring slack for his brother who played sparingly due to a hamstring injury. "He's just so quiet and unassuming, you just lose track of him."
Loyola (10-1) lost track of Idi in the fourth quarter after an Aaron Harrison barrage put Fort Bend (15-2) up 57-54 with 2:42 left.
Starting 5-9 senior guard John Burnett
found Idi in the corner and the confident starter buried a 17-footer to go up 59-54.
"I don't shoot often, but when I get the chance to I have to be ready to bury it," Idi said.
A 3-pointer by Trey Mason gave Loyola a 62-61 lead with 48.4 seconds left, but Aaron Harrison came right back six seconds later with two free throws, to put the Tigers up for good.
Idi, however, swished four free throws in the final 6.3 seconds to seal it and secure a little press time, a seemingly foreign moment for the unassuming standout.
"My job is to play good defense, hit the open man and make shots when the opportunity presents itself," he said.
Before Friday, he tried just 81 shots, making 31 (38 percent), while swishing 18 of 23 from the line (78 percent).
"We try not to give any of our guys roles that are not outside themselves," Brownson said. "All of our guys accept their roles and each is vital in getting the job done."
But c'mon. Isn't there some jealousy among the players because of how much attention the twins receive?
Idi, nicknamed "Cheeks," because of his high cheekbones when he flashes a big smile.
"Honestly, not at all," Idi said. "I just feel lucky to only to learn from them but to guard them everyday at practice. That only makes me and my teammates that much better."
Burnett, the team's third leading scorer at 8.8 per game, totally agrees.
Much like Idi, Burnett is quiet and soft-spoken. He embraces his role completely. He and Idi are especially tight because they share very similar roles.
"Chris is my dude," Burnett said. "We get along on and off the court. We all do. We're a really good team because we play to our strengths.
"Aaron and Andrew are two of the best players in the country. They're on another level. We play defense and distribute and score when we can."
Aaron Harrison said Burnett "Is one of the most under-rated players around. He can do anything on the court and he's one of the smartest layers I've seen."
"He's a very strong-minded player," Aaron Harrison said. "He plays tough, tough defense. He really makes me work at practice so I can only imagine how tough he is against teams we play against."
Burnett shoots 45 percent from the field but is 23 of 59 (39 percent) in 3-pointers, which is best on the team. Only Aaron Harrison has made more (41) but at a lesser percentage.
No matter how Idi or Burnett is shooting, they can always have good games on defense. Both contributed to slowing down Mason, who scored just five points, 13 off his average.
"We always get after it on the defensive end," Brownson said.
Part of the reason for that is trying to slow down the Harrisons every day at practice. Another nice perk to having them on the team is that the Tigers get invited to nice event like the MaxPreps Holiday Classic.
"It all evens out," Brownson said. "There's a give and take and the boys are just great about it. It's a great group to be around regardless of winning or losing."
But winning helps.
Burnett could be a big scorer and big fish on most any other team, but said he doesn't mind at all the lesser role.
"I don't really even try to think about it," he said. "This is where I want to be. The twins are great guys and teammates. We're in this all together."